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ADAPT is a self-described "national grass-roots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom."[1]

ADAPT writes legislation, and uses strategic litigation using In the 1999 Olmstead decision the US Supreme Court affirmed the right of people with disabilities to receive their long term care services in the most integrated setting.

ADAPT is closely associated with the Center for Disability Rights.

ADA and Olmstead

Much of the legislation and activism promoted by ADAPT is based on the the 1999 Olmstead decision, where the US Supreme Court "affirmed the right of people with disabilities to receive their long term care services in the most integrated setting."[2]

This was affirmation of The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which held that “[n]o individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.”[3]


Social Justice magazine Pacific Standard described ADAPT as "a decentralized disability rights group that has been staging direct actions and winning important battles since the 1980s."

The organization is decentralized. Mark Johnson, one of the founders of ADAPT, explains: “It’s a participatory model. You don’t have a staff, a board, an annual meeting. It’s a network, affiliates, supporters. Locus of control is still based on where the most energy comes from.”[4]

ADAPT, originally an acronym for "American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit" was founded by Wade Blank in 1978. It later changed to "American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today."

"On July 5-6, 1978, Wade and nineteen disabled activists held a public transit bus 'hostage' on the corner of Broadway and Colfax in Denver, Colorado. ADAPT eventually mushroomed into the nation's first grassroots, disability rights, activist organization.
"In the spring of 1990, the Secretary of Transportation, Sam Skinner, finally issued regulations mandating lifts on buses. These regulations implemented a law passed in 1970-the Urban Mass Transit Act-which required lifts on new buses. The transit industry had successfully blocked implementation of this part of the law for twenty years, until ADAPT changed their minds and the minds of the nation.
"In 1990, after passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), ADAPT shifted its vision toward a national system of community-based personal assistance services and the end of the apartheid-type system of segregating people with disabilities by imprisoning them in institutions against their will. The acronym ADAPT became 'American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today.' The fight for a national policy of attendant services and the end of institutionalization continues to this day."[5]

Disability Integration Act

ADAPT members wrote the Disability Integration Act, which has been reintroduced by Senator Chuck Schumer.[6],[7],[8]

Senator Chuck Schumer posing for a picture with Stephanie Woodward and Adam Prizio, Advocacy staff at Center for Disability Rights

From an archived page from ADAPT's website:[9]

What does the Disability Integration Act do?

"The legislation, when enacted, establishes new federal law - similar in structure to the ADA - that requires states and insurance providers that pay for LTSS to change their policies, provide community-based services first, and offer HCBS to people currently in institutions. DIA operates alongside CFC, but these two laws work very differently. CFC is an option which states can choose. Even though CFC provides money for states to support independent living, many states have not chosen CFC. DIA requires states and insurance providers that pay for LTSS to make real and meaningful changes that support the right of people with disabilities to live in freedom like every other American."

Protesting Mitch McConnell

Sarah Blahovec, "Disability Vote Organizer at National Council on Independent Living" posts praise for ADAPT protesters.

ADAPT organized a protest the Republican alternative to Obamacare on June 22 2017.

From a Press Release (Excerpt):[10]

June 22, 2017, Washington D.C. Today, about 60 members of the national disability rights organization ADAPT are staging a Die-in at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. Advocates are protesting McConnell’s Senate healthcare bill, demanding he bring an end to attacks on disabled people’s freedom which are expected in the bill. “The American Health Care Act caps and significantly cuts Medicaid which will greatly reduce access to medical care and home and community based services for elderly and disabled Americans who will either die or be forced into institutions,” said Bruce Darling, an ADAPT organizer taking part in the protest. “Our lives and liberty shouldn’t be stolen to give a tax break to the wealthy. That’s truly un-American.”
“Not only will AHCA take away our freedom,” said Dawn Russell, an ADAPT organizer from Colorado. "That lost freedom will also cost Americans much more money. The nursing facilities that people will be forced into are much more expensive than community-based services that AHCA would cut."


As they dramatize the deaths AHCA’s cuts and forced institutionalization will cause, and as Capitol Police close in, the advocates who came to McConnell’s office from across the country chanted “I’d rather go to jail than die without Medicaid!” “To say people will die under this law is not an exaggeration,” said Mike Oxford, an ADAPT organizer from Kansas. “Home and community based services are what allow us to do our jobs, live our lives and raise our families. Without these services many disabled and elderly Americans will die. We won’t let that happen.”

Arrests Made

ADAPT members were carried out of Senator Mitch McConnell's office.[11],[12]

Sarah Blahovec praised ADAPT members on Facebook for getting arrested.


Protesting Trump for support of Disability Integration Act


ADAPT members "spent several hours...outside the president’s home calling on the Trump administration to support the Disability Integration Act" on May 16 2017. ADAPT members also protested Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump's house to promote the Disability Integration Act.[13]

According to the press release,[14] "Hundreds of activists from the disability rights organization ADAPT met in front of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s house to deliver a letter inviting Ms. Trump to be the administration’s “Ambassador to the Disability Community."

Protesters to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump's House

Facebook Post

Press Release


For More Information: Priya Penner (585) 944-3086 Bruce Darling (585) 370-6690 Marilee Adamski-Smith (715) 204-4152

WHO: ADAPT WHAT: National ADAPT Celebrates Women and Mothers WHERE: 2449 Tracy Place NW, Washington, DC, 20008 WHEN: Monday, May 15, 2017

"ADAPT Calls on Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to Advocate for Disabled Women
"Hundreds of activists from the disability rights organization ADAPT met in front of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s house to deliver a letter inviting Ms. Trump to be the administration’s 'Ambassador to the Disability Community.' Specifically, the activists are asking she begin her ambassadorship by visiting ten model programs for transitioning people with disabilities into the community, convening round-tables in ten states to support the states in developing effective systems for truly integrating people with disabilities, and working with ADAPT to advance the Disability Integration Act.
"ADAPT also noted that this ambassadorship will harmonize well with Ms. Trump’s work on women’s issues as the failure to provide adequate community-based long term services and supports for disabled Americans is an important women’s issue. Additionally, low wages for personal attendants, most of whom are women, have meant that women who work full-time as attendants are paid a poverty wage for this invaluable work.
"'Ivanka Trump says that she is an advocate for working women,' said Stephanie Woodward. 'This is her chance to show that she means what she says. We hope she will engage in a thoughtful and positive dialogue, and accept our invitation.'
"ADAPT’s history, the issues we are fighting for and our activities can be followed on our web site at, our ADAPT Facebook page and on Twitter – look for #ADAPTandRESIST.

How To Save Medicaid Through Direct Action

From May, 2017:

"Last week, over 300 activists from ADAPT, the direct action disability rights organization that we profiled back in March, stormed Washington, D.C., to protest the GOP’s bill. Eighty-three were eventually arrested for chaining themselves to the White House fence (technically for blocking the sidewalk). The next day, they dispersed to find their representatives in Congress. One group, from Colorado, succeeded."[15]

Protest institutional bias

In 2015, around 60 ADAPT activists were arrested after chaining themselves to the White House fence, fighting to push the Obama administration to do more to combat “institutional bias” against community living.

Arrests in 2002

Below is a first-hand account from Bruce Darling about a "direct action" protest in 2002:[16]

"Some of us were able to put into practice what we learned about civil disobedience from Bob and Stephie a few days later when we went to Albany and were part of the ADAPT action there. The action turned out to be very exciting and quite effective. Our message was heard --loud and clear. For the first time we had a large crowd. In past Olmstead actions, in Albany, we never had more than 50 people. This time, because many of the (independent living) people that attended the "Our Homes Not Nursing Homes" Conference joined us, we had about 200 people. And for the first time there were arrests. Eight people were arrested, two of us from NYC - myself and Dina Niedelman (with her little dog Tiny). So the State officials now know how serious we are. We also got lots of media coverage, most of it very positive."


"Mel Tanzman, Nadina LaSpina, T.K. Small and I (Bruce Darling) went to meet with Mr. Wolner. At this point, it seems someone from the state decided to 'show us' that direct action doesn't work. Mr. Wolner didn't show up for the meeting. We waited nearly 45 minutes for him and then returned to the Health Department Tower where we instructed everyone to leave the building.
"We exited the building and lined up in the Concourse. Kathleen Paultler was shouting, 'Grab a sign. Get in Line!' as loud as she could. We began marching to the Capital. It was awesome. The line seemed to go on forever. Looking back you were struck by the large numbers of people.
"We got to the elevators that took us up into the Capital Building and a group of about a dozen people got to the first floor before the elevators were shut down. Four people had made it up to the Governor's floor by elevator when State Troupers shut it down. Nadina LaSpina (NYC), Chris Hilderbrant (Rochester), Spitfire Sabel (Philadelphia, PA), and Ann Kaplow (Rochester). Four more came up by the stairs. Dina Niedelman (NYC) crawled with assistance from Larry Fein (Buffalo). Debbie Bonomo (Rochester) was carried part of the way by Bruce Darling (Rochester) and crawled the rest. In all, eight people got up to the second floor."
"The group was waiting in the Concourse and cheered as each arrestee came out of the State Police Station. I was touched that Bonnie Shoultz was there waiting for us. We walked back to the hotel in single file where we got rooms for the extra people who stayed, including Larry and Todd Vaarwerk from Buffalo. We didn't get a meeting, but we knew we raised community awareness."